How the Japanese view of the black belt

Hyoho

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When I was planning to go and train under a couple of 8th Dan in Japan, my teacher said, “ Let’s get you your 5th Dan so you’ll be taken seriously”.
My old mentor and relative Fujii Okimitsu told me it felt so wasted studying under Oasa Yuji Judan. Just too young to understand the finer points of lessons.
 
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PhotonGuy

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What I meant was you don't really have foot on the ladder (degree) until you become a qualified beginner. As I mentioned before it's mostly kids. I was teaching junior high schoolers that were already shodan.
Well when I talk about the rank of Shodan (First Degree Black Belt) in Japan being just another rank, mostly what I mean is that in Japan getting from Ikkyu to Shodan isn't much harder and it doesn't take much longer than getting from Nikkyu to Ikkyu. For it to be much harder and take much longer to get from Ikkyu to Shodan than it does to get from Nikkyu to Ikkyu is very much an American thing.
 

Hyoho

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Well when I talk about the rank of Shodan (First Degree Black Belt) in Japan being just another rank, mostly what I mean is that in Japan getting from Ikkyu to Shodan isn't much harder and it doesn't take much longer than getting from Nikkyu to Ikkyu. For it to be much harder and take much longer to get from Ikkyu to Shodan than it does to get from Nikkyu to Ikkyu is very much an American thing.
In Kendo there was prefectural assessment at Ikkyu of around 200 people. The were always told, "If you cant pass this you have no business trying for Shodan. You are not ready to make the jump to a qualified beginner". I already had Shodan from a national association in another country but it turned out to be double standard. Eight practices with the kids in a week and going to other keiko. Pushed until I could stand no more each practice I soon caught on.

Fond memories of Iaido at Hagakure Dojo. Built near the birth place of Hagakure's orator, Yamamoto Jocho. MJER but mostly the new Seiteigata.
 

isshinryuronin

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Fond memories of Iaido at Hagakure Dojo. Built near the birth place of Hagakure's orator, Yamamoto Jocho. MJER but mostly the new Seiteigata.
Hagakure was about the old Japan's Samurai ethos and its place in post war (Sekigahara) Japan when the Samurai class began a slow slide into irrelevance and the Meiji era. While its references were specific to this unique time, its theme, I think, is universal and still relatable today. Britain's monarchy is seeking a way to stay relevant in modern times and America's old ideals are being challenged on many fronts. Even karate's old ways are said by some (including in this forum) to be antiquated.

"Out with the old, in with the new" is a draconian position IMO. There is much good in the old. Too often we equate old with obsolete. We should seek ways to preserve this old good and find ways to harmoniously blend it with the new. In most cases I think it makes everything stronger.
 

Hyoho

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Hagakure was about the old Japan's Samurai ethos and its place in post war (Sekigahara) Japan when the Samurai class began a slow slide into irrelevance and the Meiji era. While its references were specific to this unique time, its theme, I think, is universal and still relatable today. Britain's monarchy is seeking a way to stay relevant in modern times and America's old ideals are being challenged on many fronts. Even karate's old ways are said by some (including in this forum) to be antiquated.

"Out with the old, in with the new" is a draconian position IMO. There is much good in the old. Too often we equate old with obsolete. We should seek ways to preserve this old good and find ways to harmoniously blend it with the new. In most cases I think it makes everything stronger.
I lived one street away in Uma Sen Baba (Where the horses ran). My office overlooked the plains castle that has been partially rebuilt for the second time Spent some time translating unpublished orations. Hagakure 1
 

dennis63

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In my Shotokan organization, they say "Shodan is closer to white belt than it is to Nidan," and the same about the Nidan rank.

And where Americans often say they are "testing" for black belt (and therefore think they will either "pass" or "fail" said test, Japanese tend to say "grading." They look at where you are -- your ability and skill level -- and recognize the rank that fits where you are. You don't "pass" or "fail." You simply ARE a specific rank, and they recognize it.

The Japanese thinking is that "karate is for life," while (too) many Americans see black belt as the end of the road.
 

Hyoho

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some traditional JMA don't consider a person truly "Sensei" until sandan, as sandan is generally when you can promote others to shodan.
The teacher in a dojo, educational establishment, Doctors, dentists. In fact anyone who thinks you can teach them something will call you "sensei" It's a rather overused word. So if a lower ranked yudansha started a club he would still be sensei. Sword arts have Rokudan as a national level. Anything lower is prefectural. You won't be on any grading panel below Nanadan. They handed this on to other countries that now have Nanadan panels. They also invite from other countries to make up a panel.
 

Hyoho

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The Japanese thinking is that "karate is for life," while (too) many Americans see black belt as the end of the road.
Its all "for life" Koryu or classical system simple ranks don't have belts. So you will only ever get two awards, a practitioner or a licence to teach, Three if you actually take over a school as headmaster/shihan. I got rather fed up with being asked. "What belt are you taking next". But the head of the association (a Hachidan) did say to me, "You should grade! Maybe you don't want to but your students will be proud".
 

isshinryuronin

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Japanese tend to say "grading." They look at where you are -- your ability and skill level -- and recognize the rank that fits where you are. You don't "pass" or "fail." You simply ARE a specific rank, and they recognize it.
I think this is a very nice way to view it.
 

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The Japanese thinking is that "karate is for life," while (too) many Americans see black belt as the end of the road.
You know, I’ve been on this forum for a long time and reading this I realized I have been accepting it as true with absolutely zero evidence.

So, is it true that karate is for life? Do all Japanese who train in martial arts stick with it for life? If not, how many do? And is that number higher than in America? I’d love to see some empirical evidence of this.
 

isshinryuronin

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You know, I’ve been on this forum for a long time and reading this I realized I have been accepting it as true with absolutely zero evidence.

So, is it true that karate is for life? Do all Japanese who train in martial arts stick with it for life? If not, how many do? And is that number higher than in America? I’d love to see some empirical evidence of this.
I agree with you questioning this. Westerners often think that all Asians are MA experts as seen in the old kung fu movies. In actuality I think that far fewer Japanese engage in it than we might suspect.

As far as karate is concerned, it is for life - if one choses. The potential is certainly there, each decade providing new insights.
 

Steve

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I agree with you questioning this. Westerners often think that all Asians are MA experts as seen in the old kung fu movies. In actuality I think that far fewer Japanese engage in it than we might suspect.
I would suspect that the level of interest is roughly the same, per capita, in both areas. While there are surely some cultural differences, I am curious was practical effect those differences make with training.

As far as karate is concerned, it is for life - if one choses. The potential is certainly there, each decade providing new insight.

Agreed, but can’t the same be said for most activities in Japan, America, Europe or anywhere else? My dad is 88 and still plays a round golf three times each week, plus time at the range and the practice green. The implication from comments like the one in this thread is that his approach to golf is somehow, intrinsically Eastern. I would disagree.
 

dennis63

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You know, I’ve been on this forum for a long time and reading this I realized I have been accepting it as true with absolutely zero evidence.

So, is it true that karate is for life? Do all Japanese who train in martial arts stick with it for life? If not, how many do? And is that number higher than in America? I’d love to see some empirical evidence of this.

Interesting point. I'm relying upon the teaching of my Japanese instructors, who insist karate is a lifetime pursuit, and particularly one, the night before my black belt test, who told the group preparing to test, "If you don't plan on practicing for life, you should leave now."

So I'm basing my statement on my personal experience listening to several actual Japanese men who practice karate. So, no, I'm not basing this on any exhaustive study of the population of Japan.
 
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Dirty Dog

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Interesting point. I'm relying upon the teaching of my Japanese instructors, who insist karate is a lifetime pursuit, and particularly one, the night before my black belt test, who told the group preparing to test, "If you don't plan on practicing for life, you should leave now."
The problem with your conclusion is that most of us who are NOT Japanese also consider MA training to be a lifetime thing. That's why we're here. And that's why we've trained for so long.
Instructors are probably the wrong sample group. Are there any instructors here who do NOT consider MA a lifetime pursuit?
 

Steve

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Interesting point. I'm relying upon the teaching of my Japanese instructors, who insist karate is a lifetime pursuit, and particularly one, the night before my black belt test, who told the group preparing to test, "If you don't plan on practicing for life, you should leave now."

So I'm basing my statement on my personal experience listening to several actual Japanese men who practice karate. So, no, I'm not basing this on any exhaustive study of the population of Japan.
Every lifelong instructor I’ve ever met would say the same thing, irrespective of their nationality.

Conversely, I wonder if we polled Japanese people who quit karate lessons somewhere along the way if they consider Karate to be a lifelong pursuit, what they would say. Something to consider, perhaps.
 

_Simon_

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I always presumed the "karate is for life" thing meant that you CAN train all your life, as the training can be tailored to your abilities, limitations etc as you age, and as some aspects decline (athleticism etc), others can take their place and still be developed (like methods of power generation and other subtleties).

I didn't think it meant that when you start, you cannot stop or you're not a real practitioner..

Also another meaning: that the training in karate doesn't have an end point as there isn't really an endpoint. Thus, for life.
 
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Gyakuto

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I think you can do versions of Karate throughout ones life but you may cringe at the thought of ‘old man karoddy’ as a younger exponent. But isn’t this the same as, say, soccer, cycling and skateboarding? I’ve seen older people playing versions of these activities well into old age. This is not unique to the martial arts.

I have a personal prejudice with regards Iaido. I feel that once you’re unable to perform kneeling/squatting kata (suwari waza) then it ceases being Iai. Suwari waza are so integral to the Iai, that having to cut them out stunts the art. Then we need to ask, what happens, as a karateka, when you can’t kick above the waist (in a school in which head kicks are part of the curriculum)? What happens when you lose your ‘snap’ or ability to move in the deep stances that are part of your school? Is what you’re doing really your school of karoddy and should you teach beginners by example (as is often the case in martial arts).
 
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